Monitoring Preschool Learning Outcomes in an Innovative Way

Naomi Booth :: Friday 12th November 2021 :: This Story

The Ocean Stars Trust (OST) Child Development Programme is a combination of an assessment tool, teacher training and resourcing.  It aims to deliver a quality of education programme and help preschool teachers monitor the knowledge and skills development of children in a systematic way.

In 2018, I had the great pleasure of working in Sri Lanka for Ocean Stars Trust for a three-month period. The focus of my work was building monitoring and evaluation capacity among OST's in-country organisation, Ocean Stars Lanka (OSL).

This blog outlines the development of an innovative, knowledge-based programme to support quality early years education provision which was developed by OST in the last few years.

Problem Definition

One of the specific tasks during my working period in Sri Lanka was to survey OST preschool teachers and understand their current methods and systems for measuring child development. What we found was a great disparity between preschools and no coherent, systematic approach.

Focusing on quality education provision has been central to OST's mission in recent years. OST was also aware of a World Bank Report (2014) which highlighted low-levels of parental engagement in the child development process in Sri Lanka.

In light of the findings from preschool teachers and the World Bank, OST decided to launch a Child Development Programme (CDP), with a focus on providing preschool teachers with an easy-to-use tool to monitor child development outcomes. The programme also included teacher training provision and additional resourcing of schools to support the programme implementation.  

Devising the Assessment Tool

The CDP assessment tool was devised by UK-based early years education experts. To date, the tool focuses on three prime development areas:

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Physical development
  • Creative development

Under each development area are specified activities and learning goals in which teachers assess children. Examples of activities for each development area are found in the table below.

Development Area

Activity

Personal, social and emotional development

Watches other children play – Shows interest and observes other children playing

Physical development

Can show some control of large movements – can balance on one foot when shown. Can sit still, stand still, run, jump.

Creative development

Responds to a variety of sensory experiences – Begins to join in with familiar action songs, rhymes or ring games. Begins to move in response to music.

 

To ensure easy implementation, teachers are asked to answer 'Yes' or 'No' when assessing whether a child can complete an activity at a specified time. The tool is translated into Tamil to support teacher understanding and implementation.

CDP Implementation

It was decided that the CDP should be implemented at three separate times across the preschool year: Baseline (Jan-Feb), Midline (June-July) and Endline (Nov-Dec). This ensures that the preschool children's development can be tracked at regular intervals throughout the year and takes into account that each child's developmental pathway is unique.

Additionally, to address issues to do with parental engagement in child development, parent meetings were also to be held during each assessment period, so parents were aware of the tool and the importance of their own role in early years development.

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Parents interviews during the Assessment tool

CDP Philosophy

OST has a clear philosophy when it comes to the CDP. We regularly inform and remind teachers that the CDP tool is not an assessment of teachers but rather a tool to guide their teaching in the classroom, support with tracking progress and help identify learning needs.

This message is key to achieve buy-in to the CDP process so that teachers feel at ease and support the implementation of the tool.

Pilot Programme 2019

Before enrolling the programme to all OST preschools, it was decided best to pilot the programme in 3 preschools. This was successfully conducted in the 2019 school year with very positive feedback from the participating preschools.

The advantage of having a pilot year was that it has enabled a community of practice where we encouraged pilot teachers to act as lead teachers for the 2020 enrolment. Lead teachers then led CDP training sessions to other teachers and were a contact point for teachers who had questions about the tool or CDP implementation.

Tablet-based Implementation

Tablet Training for our Ocean Stars teachers in Sri LankaTo remove the need for paperwork and make data management much easier, the CDP tool has been programmed in Kobo Toolbox software. Thanks to funding from Fonthill Foundation, all OST preschools were equipped with a tablet and receive regular tablet training sessions to ensure they are familiar with conducting the assessment.

The advantage of tablet implementation has enabled OSL to manage the programme remotely and also make it easier to track data collection progress and troubleshooting

 

Teachers attended training on Assessment Tool recentlyCDP in 2021

We are currently in our second year of all OST preschools using the CDP tool. While there are always some issues with implementation, and in the last two years added challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are extremely pleased with what we have achieved so far.

 Achievements include:

  • Development data recorded for over 1,000 preschool children.
  • Regular parent-teacher communication about child development.
  • Over 300 children provided with certificates in 2020 to take into primary school charting their development progress in preschool.

 

Next Steps

Following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect 2022 to be a consolidation year for the CDP. With preschools closed for most of this year, it will be great to have a smooth run and see children attending preschool regularly and teachers conduct the assessments in a more conventional manner.

In the future, we very much hope to engage further with early years education stakeholders in Sri Lanka and discuss possibilities for more preschools outside the OST family, to gain access and training in the CDP.

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Our students were assessed at home during Covid -19. Our home learning programme incorporated early learning goals, and this helped our teachers with assessing the students.

Our Thanks

We must say a sincere thanks to Fonthill Foundation who have supported the CDP from its inception in 2019. We are very excited about the future and how the CDP can contribute to quality early years education provision in Sri Lanka.

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Teachers working together on their experiences of the Assessment Tool and sharing ideas.

Written by Dan Bunter on behalf of the OST CDP Team